Iiro Rantala: Veneziana

Orchestral music from the Finnish pianist, tangentially related to jazz, depicts imaginary scenarios featuring famous composers in Venice

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Rantala’s endlessly imaginative, quirky approach to composing and performing is shown once again to great effect in this musical reimagining of Venice. ACT founder Siggi Loch commissioned Finnish pianist Rantala to write music specifically about the city, and here are the results, performed and recorded with members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in February 2023.

Steeped as it is in musical tradition, heritage, culture and drama, Venice provides the perfect backdrop to any number of myths and legends that get reworked and integrated into these eight musical portraits of events that might have happened.

We kick off with the story of a Swedish family coming to Venice for the first time, taking a gondola ride and bickering along the way about other matters entirely. It’s a lush, melodic, humorous introduction to further explorations that feature Mozart, Sibelius and Prokofiev and what might have happened to them during their time in the city built on water. Rantala’s fertile imagination is matched with an effortless ability to capture the essence of different composers with signature phrases here and there.

Listening to it again and again, it’s striking how various musical stories and styles all neatly interconnect to give a vivid aural impression of Venice and its rich history. With its imaginative flair and flights of fancy, Veneziana reminds me of novelist David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, with its uncanny ability to take seemingly unrelated events from different periods of history and mould them into something that suddenly and magically makes perfect sense.

Discography
Gondola Ride To St. Mark’s Square; Romeo And Steve; Monteverdi And His Ideas; Vivaldi’s ADHD; Sibelius In Venice; Mozart Loses His Mojo; Casanova And Lorenzo; Morte A Venezia (46.38)
Rantala (p, cond); Marlene Ito, Eva Tomasi (vn); Martin Segner (vla); David Adorjan (clo); Esko Laine (b); Jelka Weber (f); Sofia Zamora Meseguer (o); Matic Kuder (cl); Selim Aykal (bsn); Johannes Lamotke (horn). Live at Jazz Berlin Philharmonic, 1 February 2023.
ACT 9971-2